MONEY WAS PART OF SHS15.4BN PAID BY EC TO PRINT GAZZETTE BUT WAS PAID OUT AS COMMISSION TO A DEALER
The Public Accounts Committee [PAC] has directed a fresh investigation into the former managers of the Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation [UPPC] with a view of causing prosecution after a dubious payment of Shs1.54bn to an unknown city hunk.
The payment according to the committee arose from an alleged board resolution which ordered payment of a 10% commission to one of its numerous ‘commission agents’ who bring in work to the corporation.
It was discovered that UPPC towards 2021 elections, scooped a mega deal worth Shs15.4bn from by the Electoral Commission to print Electoral materials including the Gazette for all elected leaders at various levels. However, according to information to the committee, someone purporting to be a ‘commission agent’ of UPPC was awarded this huge amount of Shs1.54bn (10%) for having fetched the EC deal to the corporation.
It is this Shs1.54bn [10%] that has caused fresh trouble to the former board of UPPC as the committee insists that there was no basis for the corporation to pay that money to anyone when the law [Section 5 of UPPC Act Cap 330] is very clear. This section of the law mandates UPPC to print and publish all government documents and at the same time the law commands the EC to solely use the UPPC to print the gazette instead of newspapers.
“The EC therefore doesn’t have an option of going to newspapers to gazette. The law commands it to gazette only through UPPC. Someone cannot purport to bring in business for UPPC from the EC and then be paid such a huge amount of commission. The responsible officers at UPPC caused a financial loss to the entity” the committee report reads in part.
According to the report, the UPPC acting managing director Kenneth Oluka during his interaction with the committee informed members that UPPC collects most of its monies through printing the gazette. As such, in the FY2020/21, it received a mega boost of Shs15.4bn from the EC. It was reported that the decision to pay this money was born out of a board resolution which unfortunately upon request by the committee, it wasn’t availed.
The committee has now given police all powers to hunt for the responsible officers, arrest them with a view of prosecuting them over this loss to government. The same committee has given the wo/man who received this Shs1.54bn not to waste time but to refund the loot within a period of 90 days from the date of adoption of the committee report by parliament.
The rot at UPPC needs to be put into perspective. To begin with, all this mess occurred before the current management including the political head set in. At the time, UPPC had a managing director and its board supervised by former minister for presidency, also Luuka woman MP Esther Mbayo.
Appearing before PAC, current presidency minister Milly Babirye Babalanda, informed members that on July 5 2021, she received a hair-raising dossier from a whistleblower alleging massive corruption at UPPC. She moved very fast and alerted CID boss to carry out an investigation. The CID also moved swiftly and commenced the criminal investigations on August 16 2021. The board was dismissed and some staff interdicted. Within seven days [August 23], the chairperson of UPPC board was knifed and the honorable minister appointed Mr. Tweheyo James as acting managing director since she didn’t want to cripple the operations of UPPC due to absence of the board.
After almost two years of intense searching for proper individuals, the minister finally appointed a new board chaired by veteran scribe Joachim Buwembo. The committee however, noted that the appointment of the new board took so long and this ‘grossly’ affected the operations of UPPC. None the less, the members were happy that now there is a board.
“The committee recommends the new board to institute a system of good corporate governance practices at UPPC including instituting board committees, regular meetings, and prudent financial and human resource management among others” the committee report says. The members also want the new board to set up mechanisms of how to recover debts from various MDAs that are yet to pay. It was noted that some of the debts totaling over Shs3bn have gathered dust for the last 10 years.